During the past 18 years, Wellington High School’s varsity swimming and diving coach Richard Whalen has produced a number of swimmers who have advanced to the Florida High School Athletic Association’s (FHSAA) state finals.
Many of these swimmers have returned home with high finishes in their respective events. And on three occasions, Wellington has produced a state swimming champion from its boys team — in 2000 with Bryce Clough in the Class 3A 100-yard freestyle; in 2014 with the Class 4A 200-yard freestyle relay; and in 2015 with Cody Cline in the Class 4A 50-yard freestyle.
However, this year’s group of 25 male swimmers may be the best boys team that Whalen has ever coached at WHS.
“I think we have a good chance of finishing in the top five teams in the state this year,” said Whalen, now entering his 19th year as the head coach of the WHS boys and girls swimming and diving teams.
The big end-of-season event on the schedule is the FHSAA’s Class 4A state championships, which will be held in Ocala at the Florida Aquatic Swimming & Training (FAST) Center on Friday, Nov. 10.
One of the biggest reasons for Whalen’s optimism is the presence of the DaSilva brothers, senior Caleb and sophomore Andreas, on the team.
Caleb’s specialty events are the two sprint freestyles: the 50-yard freestyle and the 100-yard freestyle. Last year, at the FHSAA’s Class 4A state finals, which were held in Stuart, Caleb finished in fifth place in the 50 and in seventh place in the 100.
As Caleb works to improve his starts, turns, stroke and kicking, he can possibly return home as a state champion in one or both events. The higher the finish, the more points he will earn for WHS in the all-important team points competition at the state meet.
Whalen added that Andreas will also have a strong fall campaign in the water.
“Andreas had a great summer with our club team in Wellington [the Wellington Wahoos], and he is swimming faster than a year ago,” Whalen said.
Andreas is expected to excel in his two best events, the 100-yard backstroke and the 100-yard butterfly. Andreas competed in last year’s Class 4A state finals in the 100-yard backstroke, where he finished in 16th place.
Other swimmers who Whalen is expecting strong performances from this season include sophomore Dillon Metz, who specializes in the two distance freestyle races, the 200-yard freestyle and the 500-yard freestyle; sophomore Everhart Fergus, also in the 200-yard freestyle and 500-yard freestyle; and freshman Julian Granison, in the 50-yard freestyle and 100-yard freestyle.
Whalen expects that Granison will provide great competition for Caleb DaSilva in the two sprint races. “I expect Julian will push Caleb in the 50 and 100 freestyle,” Whalen predicted.
In addition to his flock of successful swimmers, Whalen expects his two divers, Gavin Cowell and Marcel Kurowski, to also advance to the Class 4A state diving finals in November.
Another big points producer for the WHS boys swim team will be the two freestyle relays, the 200-yard freestyle relay and the 400-yard freestyle relay. Last fall, the 400-yard freestyle relay team advanced to the Class 4A state finals. That quartet finished in 10th place with a time of 3:14.77. This year, Whalen expects both relays, plus possibly the 200-yard medley relay, will earn a trip to Class 4A state finals.